Inside Pulse 12

10 Thoughts on… the Resident Evil 6 Demo (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Everyone on our staff has their franchises that they’re pleased about in some form or fashion, so it stands to reason that you could say “So and so is the (X Franchise) person” on staff and have that be a fair description. Alex is “The Pokemon guy”, Aaron is “The God of War guy”, Sean is “The Final Fantasy guy”, and so on. Well, I’ve apparently become “The Resident Evil guy” by accident, as in the past three years, I’ve reviewed Resident Evil 5, its two expansions Lost in Nightmares and Desperate Escape, The Mercenaries 3D, the Xbox Live re-release of Resident Evil 4, Resident Evil: Revelations and Operation Raccoon City, and that doesn’t even include previews. So, hi, I like Resident Evil a lot as a franchise, if not all of its games (Resident Evil Survivor and Code Veronica are not games I especially enjoy for example), and I generally like reviewing new releases in the franchise whenever possible because of this. Well, purchasing Dragon’s Dogma provided me with a code to download an early Resident Evil 6 demo, and while that apparently wasn’t a very good sales tactic (considering the game tanked), I wanted Dragon’s Dogma to begin with, so I figured I’d spend some time telling you about the Resident Evil 6 demo.

1.) The demo features three scenarios, which seem to be the pathways the final game will follow. You can choose between Leon and Helena, Chris and Piers, and Jake and Sherry when you start the demo, and each is structured a little differently. It’s worth noting that the missions here allow you to choose which mission you want to play right from the menu, as it’s not obvious at this point whether the final game will do this, or force a set mission structure. It’s also worth noting that you can choose to play as either character in a given scenario, so you’re not locked into playing as one character once before you can play as the other; if that makes it to the final game, that would be ideal. Finally, it bears mentioning that the demo allows you the choice of playing alone, making a co-op game with a friend or searching for a random game to join, so online co-op is apparently back in full force.

2.) Leon Kennedy and Helena Harper’s mission seems geared toward the “jump scare” structure of the older games in the series, as the demo offers virtually no combat, focusing on game world structure, lighting and ambient noise to create a “scary” environment that… actually works fairly well. Resident Evil, as a series, has never really “scared” me, as franchises like Silent Hill seemed geared more towards “terror” and Resident Evil felt more like slasher movie horror. This sequence, on the other hand, does a very effective job of drawing real scares, as the zombies are a very muted part of the sequence and only show up at the very end, leaving you to stumble around in the dark and wonder “what was that noise?” The scares are mostly of the “BOO!” variety, mind you, but the actual environment and structure of the sequence is quite unsettling, so for those who have been hoping the series would go back to its roots and stop being an action-fest, this part of the sequence implies you might be getting your wish.

3.) The sequence itself picks up from the “Leon has to shoot the president, who has been turned into a zombie” part of the trailers we’ve seen so far, as Leon is still some sort of operative for the US Government, while Helena is revealed to be a Secret Service operative. The sequence basically spends its early portions setting the tone and giving the characters some exposition sequences before shifting into “someone is missing, let’s find them” mode, which isn’t bad; it establishes the scene, sets up mysteries for the final product, and then gives the player a goal to aim for. Of course, this being a game with zombies in it, we all know how the actual sequence is going to end, and the ending of the sequence involves fighting a few zombies with minimal equipment, which is appropriately tense, especially considering the demo waits until the very end to introduce combat at all. This sequence, above all of the others, is quite effective, and if this storyline stays in this mindset instead of going into the run-and-gun style of the rest of the game, it’ll be fantastic.

4.) The second section stars Chris Redfield and Piers Nivans, and is more akin to the Resident Evil 5 sort of gameplay we’ve come to expect, though it also has a lot more in common with Gears of War as well. This section is pure combat, and it’s here that we’re introduced to some of the more involved combat mechanics the game will work with, such as dodging and active time events (though those do show up at the end of the Leon and Helena sequence). The game doesn’t do anything with the now standard cover mechanics we expect in the genre, which is odd, given that Resident Evil 5 actually did work with these to a certain extent, but after taking a few minutes to adjust, they’re not really missed, honestly. As third person shooters go, this sequence shows a lot of promise for this part of the game, as the gunplay is generally effective and the mission breaks up the experience enough to keep things from getting repetitive. The enemies you face don’t simply take fire and die, but often mutate when shot, making combat against them more complex, as it has been in the last few Resident Evil titles. You’ll also find yourself performing various team actions with your partner that keep things moving along and keep both players involved, and the AI in general isn’t bad when left to its own devices, either. Oh, and the game allows you to move and shoot at the same time, which is something I’m sure fans have been waiting for, so for those who were wondering if this would be introduced here, yes, Virginia, there is mobile shooting.

5.) The flow of the Chris and Piers mission, aside from being more action oriented, focuses a lot less on exposition and plot development; the demo stage dumps the mysteries of what’s going on into your lap from the beginning and doesn’t say much from there. The gist of the plot seems to be that Chris was involved in a mission where his entire crew died and he was left with amnesia, and we pick up with Piers and the BSAA bringing him back to active duty, albeit with no idea of who he is and what he’s doing. The mission itself makes vague mentions of Chris doing things out of muscle memory and such, but otherwise it’s a straight shoot-out. The final sequence features a survival-based battle where Chris and Piers have to cake on the mutated enemies in waves while waiting for backup, which can get a bit hectic, but for the most part you’re running and shooting at all times. For those who were looking for the more action oriented evolution of where the series was going, this is a good start.

6.) The final mission in the demo stars Jake Muller and Resident Evil 2 supporting character Sherry Birkin, who is now a teenager, which means holy crap everyone is old by game standards. Ahem. This mission sequence breaks up the two gameplay types and plants itself somewhere in the middle. The action portions come from having a fair amount of active time sequences to deal with and enemies to fight (though nowhere the amount of the Chris and Piers mission) and the terror portions come from being chased by a murderous monster you can’t kill, so, BALANCE. In theory, this is an interesting idea, bringing back shades of the Nemesis sequences from Resident Evil 3 with an engine that can more readily handle this sort of action; in practice, the mission is generally fine, but it doesn’t capture the idea as well as it could. It’s not that the sequence in the demo is bad so to say, so much as it is that the other two sequences show the strengths of what can be done when the design focuses on one concept or the other. When the design is trying to mesh the two, you get things like “running into the screen to escape a monster”, which is a design sin that developers keep making despite the fact that no one, ever, thought this was a good idea, for example. Granted, the final product could end up meshing this together well, but at this point the mission in the demo is the most frustrating and least engaging of the three.

7.) Jake and Sherry’s mission starts off pretty impressively, at least; we basically toss plot and exposition out the window here in favor of things blowing up as the pair run from a monster dubbed the “Ustanak”, which looks like a Tyrant style BOW, except with an arm similar to that of Doctor Satan from The House of 1000 Corpses. The demo mission does two things very well here in the beginning: it shows off exactly how brutal a monster the Ustanak is (by having it eviscerate some random guy), and it shows off how futile fighting said Ustanak is (by having it walk through a gigantic explosion with no effort). The mission then transitions into the aforementioned “running into the screen” nonsense before an active time event involving diving for their lives changes the goal from “escape” to “exploration”. Finding the exit initiates an involved boss battle against infected mercenaries, similar to those seen in the Chris and Piers mission, and the Ustanak, which is easily the most challenging battle of the demo, and arguably the most frustrating. Between Sherry and Jake’s less than impressive armaments, the constant flood of grunt enemies and the near invulnerability of the Ustanak, you’ll spend a good amount of time learning what the new game mechanics can offer you here that you might not have learned in the prior missions.

8.) So, for those who’ve been seeing the various reference to “new mechanics” and “control changes” and such and have been wondering what I meant, in short: Resident Evil 6 plays, on a base level, like its predecessors, but makes several significant and useful changes to its gameplay. Most of the core mechanics are intact, meaning that you’ll be able to jump in and start shooting things just fine, but the inventory system as it has existed in prior games is essentially gone from this game. Instead, you can cycle through your weapons with the left and right directions on the D-Pad, while pressing up and down allows you to cycle explosives, healing sprays, and other specialized items. You can press Y to bring up your item list, which would include herbs and such, and allows you to combine items as needed or shift them into other menus as the situation requires, though the demo missions didn’t call for this or draw much attention to it. Further, you can now dodge while holding the Left Trigger by pressing A, which allows you to dive out of the way of incoming attacks, and you can continue to shoot from the ground after a dive if you’re trying to drive off a particularly tenacious enemy, which is a nice addition. The game also uses something called “health tablets” as a quick health booster; by pressing the Right Bumper, you’ll shake out a health tablet and consume it, bringing back one block of health, and the tablets can apparently be reloaded like a gun, though none of the missions present a point where this is a concern, to be honest. You can also hold down the B button to target your partner, allowing you to give them commands or praise/thank them, instead of using the somewhat unhelpful “C’mon!” mechanics from Resident Evil 5. Finally, you can now melee attack at any time by pulling the Right Trigger by itself, which is quite powerful when matched up against single enemies and is quite helpful for saving ammunition. In groups this can still get you killed, however, so it’s not entirely abusable, though it seems fairly powerful and might need to be nerfed a bit before the final game comes out.

9.) There’s also the matter of what the game doesn’t address that draws as much interest as what it does. As in the last few games, enemies will randomly drop items, such as curatives and ammunition, but they now also drop something identified as “Skill Points”. This seems to be a replacement for the money enemies dropped in the prior games, though the demo doesn’t go into what the use of Skill Points will be in the final game. One could theorize that Skill Points will be a way to upgrade characters and weapons, but how the final mechanics will play out aren’t shown off here; the press kits indicate that Skill Points will allow for character improvement, but the actual methods one could use are decidedly vague. Further, the press materials point out all sorts of interesting details that aren’t even hinted to in the demo, such as four player co-op “Crossover” missions, vehicle-based sections, and the return of The Mercenaries. The possibility of four player co-op Mercenaries is fantastic, and while the fact sheets aren’t quite saying this is where the game is going, if it’s not, someone needs to be fired. Just saying. Also, the press materials point to the return of series mainstay Ada Wong and the rise of an organization identified as “Neo-Umbrella”… oh, and they also point out that the current virus is dubbed the “C-Virus”, which does what you’d expect… but also allows for the zombies it creates to run, jump, and use weapons in combat. So, if you were wondering how in the hole you are, the answer is “up to your neck”, more or less.

10.) The target release date for Resident Evil 6 is October 2nd of this year, and by all indications, this demo should see widespread release about a month beforehand, so for those who didn’t purchase Dragon’s Dogma, you’ll get your chance with the demo soon enough. By all indications, however, Resident Evil 6 looks like it’s going to be a fairly big deal for the series, and while it’s not going to reinvent the wheel to the same extent Resident Evil 4 did, it’s likely going to be a big game changer all the same. Speaking as someone who’s spent a large amount of time with the franchise, so far, I like where this is going, and I think that if everything comes together the way Capcom is indicating they want it to, this could be an amazing experience. If so, this will be an excellent way to end their year of Resident Evil, especially after the oddly executed and received Operation Raccoon City, so here’s hoping that they can actually pull this off in the way they’re intending.

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